How to Choose a Daycare
Deciding to leave your child in someone else’s care several days a week may seem nerve-wracking, especially for first-time parents. There are plenty of concerns you might have about daycare and what it might mean for your baby. But if you and your partner plan to return to your 9-to-5’s, signing your child up for daycare will be a necessity.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of sending your kids to daycare and consider what important questions you should ask when choosing exactly where to take your baby.
Types of Daycare
While there are several types of childcare, from relatives, babysitters, and nannies, there are two main types of daycares to consider.
In-home daycare: This type of daycare is typically run out of the home of the provider while he or she also looks after their own and other children. Depending on which state you live in, in-home daycares aren’t always required to be licensed.
Group daycare: This type of daycare is often run like a school, with its own facility and various age groups of children. Group daycare centers are required to be licensed.
Childcare license requirements vary state to state, but generally cover the following topics:
- The number of children allowed in a class and the
- Number of care providers per child
- Safety of the facility (emergency exits, cleanliness, etc.)
- Nutrition of the food served to children
- Health and training requirements of the adults working in the facility
While having a childcare license doesn’t necessarily guarantee the quality, it does ensure that the facility has minimum requirements and is being monitored. Use the National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations to learn about your state’s regulations and find contact information.
Benefits of Daycare
Whether you decide to use in-home or group daycare, a daycare that is run well has several benefits for both you and your child.
Education: Daycares that provide programs similar to those in preschool and beyond will offer developmental advantages for your child.
Socialization: Being around other children his age is a positive thing for your child, especially if he doesn’t have any siblings at home.
Reliability: Since most daycare centers have concrete hours, you can rely on their availability to support your schedule.
Cost: Daycare is typically less expensive for parents than hiring a nanny unless you’re a parent of multiple children, in which case, a nanny might be more cost-effective.
Negatives of Daycare
With the pros come the cons. Here are a few downsides to sending your child to daycare.
Cost: While there are definitely more expensive childcare options, daycare centers can still be pricey.
Illness exposure: This may actually be a pro and a con. While sending your little one to daycare exposes him to whatever illnesses the other children might bring in, this might also help toughen his immune system and better prepare him for preschool and kindergarten.
Less flexibility for group daycare: Group daycare centers are less flexible with their hours than in-home daycare and are often more likely to be closed on holidays when you might be working.
Less training and regulation for in-home daycare: Not all in-home daycares require any licensing, which means there’s no monitoring or regulations, and there’s a chance the staff hasn’t received childcare training.
Tips for Choosing Your Daycare
If you know you’re going to be sending your child to daycare, it’s never too soon to start your research. You should start researching daycare centers near you before your baby arrives. Be diligent and get the answers you need to any questions you may have.
1. Research. A quick search online can point you in the direction of daycare options in your area. Choose one that comes recommended. Read reviews online, ask other parents you know, or ask your child’s healthcare provider.
2. Interview. Before going to see a daycare center in person, call ahead and ask a few questions about hours, cost, staff training regulations, and childcare philosophies. If you don’t hear the answers you like, you can save yourself a visit.
3. Visit. After narrowing down your list of potential options, check them out in person. Ask the staff any questions you have. If it doesn’t seem right, trust your gut and look elsewhere.
4. Check references. Try to talk to former and current clients of the daycare center. Ask them about their experience and how their children liked the staff and care.
5. Be open. It’s understandable that you want consistency for your child, but if a situation with one daycare doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to make different arrangements.
Overall, when checking out your childcare options, be sure to consider the following:
- Is the staff caring and qualified?
- Is the environment safe and clean?
- Do you agree with its childcare philosophies (such as TV time, discipline methods, sleeping, and feeding)?
- Does the center have a good reputation?
It might take some time to find the right kind of care for your little one, but knowing she is being looked after by nurturing, qualified childcare providers will make the time away from her just a little bit easier.
Moms Share Their Daycare Experience
“Use the three C’s — Curriculum, communication methods, cleanliness. Do the other kids there look like their needs are being met? Are they safe and the staff is friendly? Are they a positive rewards instead of a discipline place?” –Susan Armstrong
“Ratios are important to me. I chose our daycare partly because they have three adults in the room when there are seven or eight babies. I like knowing there is an extra adult there.” –Jean Grant
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure to ask if all the teachers are CPR and first aid trained. Find out if the center has cameras, and if you are able to watch throughout the day. You should always read any online reviews if they’re available.” –Hannah Richards